Impressions of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi
Dubai is undoubtedly the best known city in the United Arab Emirates, but the country's capital is Abu Dhabi, not Dubai. And that is not a coincidence. The UAE holds about 6% of the world's oil reserves, and nearly all of it is in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi. It is with this authority that in 1971 Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al-Nahyan, the then Ruler of Abu Dhabi, made the bold proposal to his fellow Rulers of the various Emirates which had been under British protection as the 'Truce States' to join forces and constitute the Confederation of the United Arab Emirates.
Abu Dhabi is in surface the largest of the 7 Emirates as well. It consists, beyond the city of Abu Dhabi itself, of the oasis regions of Al-Ain and Liwa. It is all there for us to discover. We will then realise that there is more to it than the flashy shopping malls, the prestigious projects and the 'bread and games' of festivals, Formule 1 races and the like; we will realise that there are also the traces of Bronze Age history and the mudbrick castles of the 19th century, reminding us of the delicate relations among Bedouin tribes in search of control over water and oil. There is just one caveat to our journey of discovery: the pictures here presented mainly date from the period between 2002 and 2007, and in this country that is an eternity ago. Some places I describe hereunder simply do not even exist anymore or have drastically changed, such as the Old Suq or the Wharf of Abu Dhabi. But that too is interesting, as it shows how lightening fast things evolve in this region where money flows.
Before visiting the place of your choice:
Much of social city life takes place in and around shopping malls, in Abu Dhabi as much as in Dubai. And when Christmas comes near, the shopkeepers and mall managers know perfectly well how to attract the large community of expatriates from countries of Christian tradition. There is a message in this, that when common sense is used and tolerance dominates, it can be done, without being offensive or disrespectful towards the Islamic character of the country.